Anti-marriage equality senator Eric Abetz has called the Australian Tax Office’s (ATO) new LGBTI employee benchmark “nonsense” and “condescending”.

The ATO set a benchmark of 3 per cent LGBTI employees to ensure workers feel comfortable coming out at work.

Abetz said it would be one thing to make workplaces more accepting but labelled the plan a move to introduce “sexuality quotas”, The Courier Mail reported.

“It’s of great concern that taxpayers money is being spent on this kind of nonsense, which is condescending and sends entirely the wrong message that people from certain backgrounds or who are not heterosexual are only employed to meet a benchmark as opposed to being on merit,” said Abetz.

“It is also somewhat concerning to me that government human resources departments are collecting and collating information about people’s sexuality and sex lives, which could in fact leave departments open to discrimination claims,” the Tasmanian senator said.

An ATO spokesperson clarified that the policy would have no bearing on recruitment, and was instead intended to increase employee self-identification and to ensure “our staff are confident to bring their whole selves to work.”

“The diversity of our staff is one of our greatest assets, and ensures we are representative of the community we serve,” the ATO said.

“We want to foster a workplace culture where LGBTI employees feel safe and comfortable in being themselves in the workplace, and where all staff are valued and respected.

“In 2017 the Australian Public Service Commission’s annual census included a new question asking whether employees identify as LGBTI.

“Three per cent of our employees who completed this survey identified as LGBTI – this became our benchmark for the new measure.

“In the same question in the 2018 Census, 3.5 per cent of our employees identified as LGBTI.

“This increasing percentage mean that our staff are confident to ‘bring their whole selves to work’.”

The ATO has similar initiatives in place to make its workplaces more inclusion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers, people living with disability, and to encourage gender equality.

Abetz was a staunch campaigner against marriage equality and continues to lobby against LGBTI progress, saying “same-sex marriage is not a human right” and decrying “the gender agenda” in a Senate speech last year.

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